Monday, July 31, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Kiddie Concerts

As I mentioned last month, I love going to outdoor concerts with my kids during the summer.  At one of the concerts, the couple sitting beside us leaned over and said "boy you guys are pros at this thing." Which made me laugh, because I didn't realize there was any sort of skill involved in attending summer concerts.  But I figured I would share our methods, in case anyone else out there wanted to step up their game.

1) Know your venue.

Summer concerts are held in all sorts of places.  Parks, pavilions, museums, here in San Diego, we even have them on the deck of an aircraft carrier!  We plan our arrival time based on what else there is to do.  Something like a museum, we arrive early enough to set up a blanket and let the kids run around playing.  Other venues, like a closed off lot with a stage, we arrive closer to the start of the concert.

2) What to bring?
A lot of people bring lawn chairs to concerts.  We do this for movies in the park, but during the concerts the kids spend more time on their feet than sitting, and often we're away from our spots, so it's easier for us to just bring a large, waterproof blanket.  Machine washable is a must, because it inevitably gets something on it.  I bring a separate bag filled with dinner and snacks, and that's really it.

3) What's to eat?

We've been to concerts where nothing is available to eat, where food trucks are present, or recently a concert that was catered by a restaurant with a small menu of premade food to purchase.  But if you have kids, you know you're better off bringing your own, just in case.   Our "just in case" always involves cheese and crackers.  Right now Thatkid is a huge fan of "goat cheese sandwiches" or goat cheese between two crackers.  Thatbaby is all about the gouda.

One of my favorite things to bring is sandwiches, and I love love love a couple of local grocery stores that have prepacked "kids meals" which come with a sandwich, drink, and snack (or two or three).

And of course, there must always be fruit.  Which Thatbaby somehow always seems to take possession of.

4) What to expect.  I've noticed a lot of parents try to get their kids to eat before the concert.  Which is definitely one option.  My kids need a little warming up to the music, so we start eating when the concert starts.  This gives them time to watch and take it all in while eating.

Often by the time they're finished, they're ready to go up and join in the fun.  Thatkid will take breaks from eating to run up and sing and dance to a song he knows.  Thatbaby waits until he's all done, then wants one of us to go up close to the stage with him.  Which is why we don't bring chairs.

The great thing about summer concerts for kids is that they're really geared toward them.  There's usually at least one song that every kid knows, like Old MacDonald.  And just as you love it when a song you know and love comes on the radio, kids get really excited when a band or singer is singing a song THEY KNOW.

5) The aftermath.  In our neck of the wood, these concerts begin and end fairly early.  Which means they extend the bedtimes of my children, but not by too much.  And what really helps is bringing pajamas with us.  We change the kids before heading home, so that when we get home, they can march right to bed.  With a song in their heart.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Runday: Trail-ing

Or "Why I will never be a professional trail runner."

Or "Y'all love when bloggers get 'real,' right?"

So let's talk "real."  I'm no stranger to trail running,   I've put in lots of miles on trails.  But there are different kinds of trails.  The ones I prefer, the ones I run regularly,  are really "unpaved paths."  And I love that.  I love running through the trees, taking in nature and the sights.

But let's not pretend that's what most people consider "trail running."  I know.  I've run more than one "trail race."  And they are hard!  They are not "unpaved paths."  They are grueling treks up mountains that are referred to as "hills."   And recently my "trail runs" have mirrored these races.

It started back in March when I was invited to join in a sunrise run up to North Fortuna in Mission Trails park.  It was a strenuous uphill climb, which was equally challenging coming back down.   And while that could have been the end of it, the park has a "5 peaks challenge" for summitting all five of the "hills" in a year.  So I told SDMom to let me know if she hit up any of the other ones.  I wasn't going out of my way, but you know, if it happened to be convenient.....

Last week, SDMom let me know there was going to be a group planning a trail run on Saturday.  It included a climb up to Kwaay Paay peak.  And she was going.  Along with a bunch of my other favorite people.  So yesterday morning, one of my favorite people picked me and we carpooled down to the meeting point.

There was a huge group of us.  With various speeds and abilities.  Although I was definitely in the slower half of the group.  Which ended up with me towards the very rear when a lot of the slower half decided to skip "Climbers loop" a trail that climbed almost 400 feet in less than a mile.  

It was rough.  And I had to hang back for a moment to catch my breath, letting some others in front of me.  But eventually I was able to continue with the group.  There was no summit to this climb, but there were some lovely views.

When we reached the bottom, it was time to run.  And I ran.  On legs that were already fatigued from the the first leg!  But we were heading to the reason I was there Kwaay Paay, 1194 feet up.  I fell to the rear here again, with several other women who decided we were better off hiking up.  We'll leave the running to the flat portions.  And we were really climbing on this one.   I felt like we went on forever, but eventually we got to the top, where we joined the rest of the group.

What comes up, must come down, so down we came.  I ended up in the middle of the pack here, but it wasn't long before I lost sight of the people in front of me, and lost the sound of the people behind me.  But I calmed my nerves by reminding myself I just needed to head down.  Every time I came to a fork in the trail, I followed the one that appeared to be heading toward the road.  And eventually I met up with all the women in front of me.

This was where we were going to split.  Some women were heading back to cars, others were heading to run the perimeter.  My ride was running the perimeter, so I figured I would stick with them.  We started out, and once again I lost sight of all but one of the women in front of me.  And my anxiety kicked in.  "You're not going to be able to see them, and you don't know this area very well.  You won't know where to go if the trail splits, and you won't see where they went."  I knew this would be very very bad for me.  So I called out to the woman in front of me to let her know I was turning back, so they wouldn't be looking or waiting for me.

And I headed back.  This short portion of the trail was more like my unpaved path and I took pleasure in running over bridges and checking out the waterfall.

When I got back to the base of Kwaay Paay, I saw the rest of the crew that had been behind me coming down, including SD Mom.  Knowing they were more my speed, I decided to join them in "catching up" to the faster women by following the Saddle trail, another 720 ft climb.

There was a lot more walking.  A lot more complaining.  And a lot of realization that this was not something I wanted to do on a regular basis.  Especially because every time we turned around, we were heading uphill.  It felt like we would never get back to our cars.


After all that, I felt sure that I would sit down and never be able to stand again, and (knock on wood) so far that hasn't been a problem.

Although my socks may never be white again....

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Barbecue-Flavored Onion Rings

If you hadn't noticed, birthdays are a big thing for me.  Today is Baby B's birthday and she's going to be 3!  My poor brother and sister in law don't even know what they have in store.

My birthday took a backseat to Thatbaby's this year.  Which is expected.  And one of the reasons I didn't want to share a birthday.  Luckily my girlfriends and I started a tradition of a girls' weekend in June, which I treat as a birthday trip.

Last year, we had two itty bitty babies in the group, so we stayed close to home.  This year, with all the kids over one, we went just a little farther afield - Palm Springs.  Or Indian Wells to be exact. Once again Jurisslave hooked us up with a hotel room, Mrs. Pirate did all the planning, and I made the goodie bags.

Since Palm Springs in June/July is hot, I filled the bag with lots of cool off things.  Like a mister fan, sunglasses, hair ties, and pool floats.  There was also sparkling wine to drink, and popcorn to snack on.  And coffee for the morning after.

Mrs. Pirate also happens to be pregnant (yay!) and while she has a shower later this month, this is the only time the whole crew of us will be together, so we decided to decorate the room for a little mini-shower experience.

Jurisslave headed up the night before and spent the day working.  I picked Horsewhisperer up from the airport and we were the first to check into the room and get it decorated.  We rewarded our hard work by heading down to the hotel bar for happy hour.

And before too long, M joined us too!

When Jurisslave turned up, we decided to stay where we were for dinner, then come up with a plan for the evening.

Our plan was to go to The Nest.  Do me a favor and check out the yelp review for this place. The second review.   Go ahead.  I'll wait.

The Nest is a piano bar.  But different than any other piano bar I've been to.  Because the piano?  It wasn't a piano.  It was a keyboard.

And there was only one.  And they didn't play any classic songs that everyone knew and loved.  But the thing that really made me not love The Nest, was one patron in particular.  If you read the yelp review you'll know what I'm talking about.  One of the regulars dresses up like a clown and hangs out in the bar, just creepily staring at people.

I'm not a fan of clowns to begin with, and this guy just made that dislike seem pretty rational.  After my friends took great joy in my discomfort, we all decided it was time to move on.

And so we found ourselves at Neil's, a karaoke bar.

And of course, by this time of night, we all took a turn with the mike.

We stayed until a bar fight broke out, and then waited until the brawlin' parties were gone before heading home for the night - which was really the next morning.  There was very little talking as we all washed up and crawled into bed.

The next morning Mrs. Pirate joined us, and we celebrated the eagerly anticipated arrival of her bundle of joy.  We found our way down to the breakfast buffet at the hotel, before heading out to spend the day at the pool.

Those pool floats in the goodie bag definitely came in handy.

We really did spend the rest of the day at the pool, alternating between our floats and sitting in chairs until it became too hot not to be in the water.

As dinnertime approached, we headed back to the room to put on our "fancy clothes" and head out to a nice dinner.  Unlike the night before, we ended up just staying and talking, long after the food was gone.  We headed back to the hotel and started changing into pajamas, when the fire alarm went off.

So we grabbed our bags and headed back out.  With cupcakes in tow.  Because if we're going to be stuck outside, we might as well be stuck outside with cupcakes.

Eventually they let us all back in.  And we resumed bedtime rituals.  Since it was't the wee hours of the morning, we stayed up talking for a lot longer, until one by one, we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we woke up and said our goodbyes.  It was only a couple days, but it felt so much longer without any of our kids.  And it was really the perfect break, which made it a nice birthday present for me.

It was like a weekends I used to have with my girlfriends when I was in college.  Lite.  Because none of us are college kids any more.  So everything is a little less.  A little more mom-like.  Which is true of a lot of my food choices.  I can't eat like I could when I was in college.  Which isn't a bad thing.  It means that I'm very happy with lighter versions of the terrible things I used to eat.  I've slowly converted Thatboy too.  Like onion rings.  While he used to love those heavily battered, thick cut rings, now he's just as happy with onions that are thinner and more lightly coated.  These onion rings are even baked, instead of fried and my stomach definitely appreciates the lack of oil.  Then again, when crispy rings are loaded with such great seasoning, it's easy to ignore the fact they're missing some of the batter.

Barbecue-Flavored Onion Rings (From Cooking Light)
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 lb Vidalia onions cut into 1/4 inch slices and separated into rings
1 1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs, divided
cooking spray

  1.  Preheat oven to 450.  Combine flour, sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and allspice in a bowl.
  2. Add eggs and beat with a whisk until blended.
  3. Dip onion rings in egg mixture, draining off excess.  
  4. Place 3/4 cup breadcrumbs in a ziplock bag with half of the onion rings.  Shake to coat the onion rings.  Arrange onion rings on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
  5. Repeat with remaining breadcrumbs and onion rings and place them on a second baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  
  6. Lightly coat the onion rings with cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes.  
  7. Turn onion rings over, lightly coating with cooking spray and bake another 9 minutes.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Runday: Craft Classic 5k

I wasn't originally planning on running the Craft Classic.  I'd only heard of the half marathon, which several of my friends ran last year.  They complained about the difficulty of the course, and made it sound rather unappealing.

But SDMom was turning 40 last week, and decided that for her "birthday run" we should all do the Craft Classic 5k.  Even an unpleasant course isn't a big deal if you're only running 3 miles.  Trust me, I do it every day.

The group of us met early, before the race started.  There are several aspects of a race that are good for review.  And one of them is definitely the parking situation.  This was one of the best and easiest parking for any race I've run.  It was plentiful, free, and close to the start/finish.  If you were running the half marathon, there was a shuttle to take you to the start line.

Meeting early gave us plenty of time to play with the photo drops and props before the race, instead of waiting in long lines after we'd finished running.  Especially since by this time the half marathon had already started, so we had less people milling about than we would after.

When we finished fooling around with pictures, we headed over to the start line to get ready to run.

The course itself wasn't really all that exciting.  There was no crowd support, and no beautiful scenery.  It was basically running a mile and a half out on a road, then a mile and a half back.  And the way the course was plotted, we ended up running uphill - both ways.

It's been a while since I've run a 5k with anyone but Thatkid.  So even though we took it slow and spent the run chatting, it still seemed like no time before we were turning around and heading back.  And then just like that, it's over.

The fun thing about doing a race dedicated to beer, is that the medal is a bottle opener.

And there's beer at the finish.

We each grabbed a pint and spent some time chatting and hanging out in the beer garden.

Cheers to a fun 5k.  I'm not sure if I would do it again, but I'm glad I did it this time!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Baked Mozzarella Bites

As you may or may not have noticed, my hair has taken on a distinct hue as of late.  As they say in The Wizard of Oz, "Now that's a horse of a different color."

When I started my new job, where I wasn't going to have to appear in court, or even an office most of the time, I realized it gave me some freedom to do something fun with my hair.  Despite the fact I rarely do much with my hair, I'm fairly brave when it comes to hair changes.  I've done long, short, permed, straight, bangs, highlights, and even played with color before the kids were born and I had more time for hair maintenance.   My philosophy is that it will always grow back.

I decided it was time for a fun color, not the typical browns, blondes, and reds of the past.  But knowing that hair color is high maintenance I decided to only do the bottom half of my hair.  So that when I got sick of it, I could just cut it off.

So last month I found myself in the salon looking a little like this.

One of the reasons I've always shied away from fun hair colors is that they don't work on brunettes.  You have to bleach the hell out of your hair first.  Which seemed like more work, and also not a friendly way to treat your hair.  But since the end game is chopping it off anyway...

And after a couple more hours under the dryer, I found myself with a whole new shade of hair.

I have to say.  I love my blue hair.  I've even gone and gotten it touched up once already.  When I glance down and see it, it makes me feel like a super hero. Like Wonder Woman.

And in reality, I am a super hero.  I'm super mom - working, taking care of the home, taking care of my family.  Most of us are super heroes and don't even realize it.   I do remember thinking my mom was some kind of super hero.  When we were kids, she went to school, worked in the hospital, taught at the university, and took care of the family.  That last part was not single-handedly, but all the best super heroes have help in some form.  I admired her, even if I did resent the fact that she wasn't home after school to greet us with cookies like most of my friends' moms.  Because I have less on my plate than she did, and because I'm the one picking the kids up from preschool, I can fill in that void I was missing.  My kids don't get cookies after school, but they do get a snack.  And I try to make it something that has some nutritional value in case they end up not eating dinner - which is also served very near the time they get home.  Cheese is my go-to: cheese sticks, babybels, or even just cutting them chunks of cheddar or gouda.

If dinner is going to take a little longer to get together, then I might even up the ante on that cheese.   These baked mozzarella bites take around 5 minutes to make, and add a fun crunch to their normal after-school snack.  The boys shun the marinara, preferring to just eat the bites as they are.  I like the warm marinara with the melty cheese and crisp panko.  It's just heavy enough to hold you over, and light enough not to fill you up.

 Baked Mozzarella Bites  (From Cooking Light)
1/3 cup panko
3 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
3 Tbsp egg beaters
cooking spray
1/4 cup low-sodium marinara sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add panko to the pan and cook 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and place in a shallow dish.
  2. Cut mozzarella sticks into 1 inch pieces.  Working with one piece at a time, dip the cheese in the egg beaters and then dredge in panko.
  3. Place the cheese on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 3 minutes.
  4. Pour marinara into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Serve with mozzarella pieces.